piano practice - how often
Find a (pretty easy) song that you absolutely love !!
Your song list is who you are as a piano player. If you don't have a song list yet, stop and do that right now. It can be just 2 songs long to begin with - easy. This list is your overall grand plan. Nothing else is more important.
You need songs that feel better to you than all other songs. Not just a song that you love, but one you could listen to over and over and over again. Because you certainly will.
Aim for every weekday after dinner or something.
A minimum of 4 days/week, 30 minute sessions might keep you from losing what you're working on. But you want progress.
Carving half an hour out of your day can be tough. Make sure you get exercise so your brain lasts that long into the evening.
So schedule it.
On bad days, just quit after doing one thing. Take breaks every 15 mins to eat a chocolate, walk a minute and think out loud.
Your family is not to even talk to you lest they get THE SNAP... Oh, they'll learn what that is. Interrupt you and cause your beautiful song to crash to a halt...
AND THEY GET THE SNAP !!
They shall sit nearby and wait in silence (up to 5 minutes) until you complete the section of the song you're on.
What playing piano actually is
You're reading rhythms of notes from notation or memory and executing body/arm/wrist/finger and foot movements juuust in front of the rhythm.
So you'll need to efficiently read the notation and plan out how those movements will make a smooth, expressive sound.
Piano players use the term "muscle memory" a lot. Your brain doesn't plan out individual muscle movements in isolation. It plans out whole concerts of muscle movements at a time. From brain, to nerve tree, to all muscle sets at once.
You play a song as a (very) long series of reflexes.
As you practice a song, that sequence of reflexes gets built smoother until
it's dead on to make the rhythm happen on time
each individual note volume is perfectly hit to sound as you feel it should.
You're doing exactly what a basketball player does when practicing a layup.
Learn While You Sleep
So while you practice, you're only setting yourself up for getting it right. You're not actually getting it right until you sleep.
Sleeping is when your brain rifles through the day's long list of movements and decides which ones to jam together into a single reflex.
Once the reflexes for a song are built (solidly enough), that's when you've actually got it right. Hopefully !! So do not play a song less than perfectly. Because that'll be the song your brain snapshots. And replacing the snapshot takes at least a day of work.
Thinking about practice is a big part of piano practice. Think through where the small tough sections to work on next are. Try to feel yourself playing away from piano.
You also need to plan out how aaaall the note volumes in the song should go. Piano playing is an art and this is a big part of how you "paint" the song.
Don't wear yourself outWe'll be doing a lot of finger muscle movements during the song. It stands to reason that we want to do that with the least amount of force possible so they don't get tired. You'll see piano players shake out their hands, long exhales, shoulder rolling, and so on.
Play as if you were about to start meditating or yoga. Try to get all the stress out and gone. Play as "floppy" as possible while still grabbing the right keys.
There are a lot of grand theories in this area of piano playing.
But most of them boil down to
stay loose and fluid
as little effort as possible
One good trick:
let's say you're playing the same chord lots of times. After each hit, let your fingers relax and slowly move from pretty open to fist-ier. This relaxes your tendons a teeeny bit after each hit.
Your piano teacher will have more suggestions.
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